A drugs trial was abandoned, leading to £80,000 in wasted costs, after a juror conducted internet research on a defendant on his mobile phone, the Attorney General’s Office said today.

James Smith, a juror in a drugs case at Liverpool Crown Court in December 2014, was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to a suspended prison term after a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice today.

Smith was sentenced to nine months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay a £900 fine.

A news release from the Attorney General’s Office states that Smith deliberately researched information including press articles about one of the defendants in the case on his mobile phone.  He then discussed the results with other members of the jury, ‘directly ignoring the repeated direction of the judge not to conduct internet research’, the AG’s Office said.

The trial was abandoned, which the AG’s Office said resulted in the waste of about £80,000 of costs to the court service and Crown Prosecution Service.

In a separate case dealt with at the same hearing, Deborah Dean, a juror in a trial in September and October 2014 involving five defendants facing various charges of rape, sexual exploitation for trafficking and sexual activity with a child, was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Dean wrote letters to two of the defendants after the trial concluded and disclosed accounts of jury deliberations.

The AG’s Office said the letters came to light in the course of appeals against conviction and sentence.

Solicitor-general Robert Buckland QC MP, who conducted the proceedings personally, said: ‘Contempt of court of this nature involves serious wrongdoing and I instigated these proceedings as it was clearly in the wider public interest to do so.

‘Any action which interferes with the administration of justice is a serious breach and I hope today’s judgment sends a lesson to other jurors about their responsibilities.’